All of these trends – serial monogamy, diffused child-rearing responsibility, dependence on the State, and diminished bonding between children and two parents – bear echoes of Plato’s "The Republic". Yet, they never dented the long-standing truism that a human child must have exactly one biological mother and one biological father, even if either is absent and unidentified. Today, even this foundational reality is coming undone. And that represents the next stride toward a Platonic family system in a way that Plato himself could not even foresee.
In the modern age, a child can have up to four biological parents – one surrogate birth mother and three genetic parents – and, as science advances, that number will rise. This is a massive shift in the fabric of humanity and it warrants a serious look at what effects this will have on child-parent identities and relationships. (Not to mention individual and collective relationships.)
For the most part, this shift is downplayed and cheered on in the name of social inclusion and scientific advancement. State laws are struggling to keep up with new complexities, sometimes with tragic circumstances. In a case that once would be thought impossible, the case of Crystal Kelley, a non-genetic surrogate mother fled to retain rights over her baby that the genetic father and socio-relational mother had offered her 10,000 dollars to abort.
Yet, courts and legislatures seem constrained in trying to make sense of new familial situations that defy a sense of order. Few in the policy world or the media are actually asking what the broader consequences are for human governance. The questions “Who’s your daddy?” or “Who’s your mommy?” are now difficult because not only is a biological parent often absent, but because a child now has more than two biological parents. Those who do dare ask these tough questions, such as The Center for Bioethics and Culture in the film, “Breeders: A Subclass of Women?,” do not generally generate a mainstream spotlight.
To be sure, fully gestational surrogate pregnancy (in which both gametes are not of the birth mother) has existed for nearly thirty years. But the procedure has a growing social acceptance that is (not co-incidentally) paired with that of same-sex unions and polyamorous unions. Together with human embryos with (at least) three genetic parents, these new forms of unions and reproduction unbind the exclusivity of the biological child-parent bond and bring us closer to the collective family of "The Republic."
One can only wonder whom the child will identify as a parent, and in what ways, if born into a union like that of the lesbian “throuple” in Massachusetts. In their throusehold, three women claim to be “married” and each intends to have one genetic child conceived by in virtro fertilization (IVF), but born of Kitten, the youngest in their trio. No matter how well-adjusted the children are reared to be, their answer to “Who is your mommy?” or “Who is your daddy?” will necessarily be filled with an understanding that is more Platonic (that children are held in common) than natural. That, in turn, may affect their understanding of the place of individuals, families, communities, and the State in society. As more such households emerge (and they will as people like Mark Goldfeder and Emanuella Grinberg push polyamory in the mainstream media with the same arguments that were used for homosexual marriage), their understandings will become more normalized and relationships between parents and children will thin while those between individuals and the collective will thicken.